As the Narendra Modi government fine-tunes the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM), popular anti-bacterial injection Meropenem may get cheaper soon while anti-diabetic drug Sitagliptin is likely to remain out of price control, News18.com has learnt.
For the medicines included in NLEM, manufacturers are required to sell their product equal to or lower than the ceiling price fixed using a formula set by the government.
A ceiling price calculation is based on the simple averaging of the market prices of different brands of medicines having a market share of at least 1 per cent.
In January, News18.com first reported that the government is considering the inclusion of high-in-demand medicines under price control.
While the revised list of 399 formulations was submitted by an expert committee under the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) last year and the list officially released by the government in September 2021, major changes were sought by Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya.
The list of drugs, almost on the verge of finalising, also includes nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products such as chewing gums, patches, tablets, oral strips and lozenges.
“While high in demand anti-diabetic medicine sitagliptin – popularly known as Januvia – was also included in the list earlier, it has been taken out for now,” said the government official privy to the developments without disclosing the reasons. “We are ready to release the list anytime now."
“The minister’s concern of pasting the old drugs in NLEM year-over-year has now been addressed. There are various other top selling formulations which will come under NLEM’s ambit. It will ease the load on the pockets of the common man,” the official said.
Meropenem, an antibiotic injection that is used to treat severe infections of the skin, lungs, stomach, urinary tract, blood, and brain is one of the most commonly used drug in hospitals.
It is commonly used to treat critically ill patients admitted to the hospital. Costing around Rs 1,500 per injection, the drug is prescribed usually for at least five days. A three-times-a-day dose adds up to more than Rs 20,000 in a patient’s hospital bill. Some brands also cost Rs 5,500.
“It is the first line of defence mechanism that every hospital gives to the patient as soon as he/she is admitted. The drug occupies a notable chunk in the hospital bill of patients. With price control, the cost to the consumer would fall below or around Rs 1,000,” the official said.
Pharma companies, including AstraZeneca, Zydus Cadila, Cipla, Novartis and Sanofi, are the manufacturers of the product.